WSIB ups farmland exposure with $250m commitment

The $129bn pension, which has backed Agriculture Capital and Homestead Capital among others in the past, is providing one-sixth of the dry powder sought by IFC's $1.5bn buy-and-lease vehicle.

The private markets committee of the Washington State Investment Board has approved a commitment of up to $250 million to IFC Core Farmland Fund, an investment vehicle managed by International Farming Corporation.

The investment will be housed within the $129 billion pension’s $4.4 billion tangible assets portfolio and was recommended by its independent consultant, Callan Associates.

“The fund will seek to generate current income and modest capital growth over the long term by investing in a combination of row-, specialty- and permanent-crop farmland, diversified by US region, crop and operator, and relates to assets including irrigation and crop storage,” WSIB said.

IFC Core Farmland Fund will target $1.5 billion and pursue a strategy focused on buying properties of large acreage and leasing them to large-scale tenants. WSIB director of public affairs Chris Phillips told Agri Investor in an email that the fund will target annual returns of between 7 and 9 percent.

“The fund will hold its investments through one or more subsidiaries that each qualify as a real estate investment trust, which will be open-ended,” WSIB said.

In August 2017, WSIB was the sole LP to commit to a $300 million vehicle managed by Seattle-headquartered private investment firm Arable Capital Partners that has since made several acquisitions of irrigation and processing companies.

Among WSIB’s previous agriculture and timber investments are commitments to funds managed by Teays River, Agriculture Capital, Homestead Capital.

Headquartered in North Carolina and claiming affiliation with entities whose histories stretch back to 1871, International Farming Corporation says its approach focuses on active management of farmland through progressive and preventative farming techniques. In 2016, the firm launched Willow Hill Ventures, an agtech-focused joint venture with Finistere Ventures.

“Mastery of precision agriculture, including variable-rate applications, extensive soil fertility management and remote sensing/monitoring, helps provide preventative and corrective measures for our farming partners,” the firm said.

International Farming Corporation declined to comment. WSIB had not replied to messages seeking further detail at the time of publication.